The University of Montana has taken strides in recent years to recognize the service of Montana veterans and better integrate them into the campus setting – both efforts receiving praise from military organizations across the country.
The school will now roll out the proverbial red carpet to more than 800 veterans, wildland firefighters, emergency responders and their family members during Saturday’s football game, where the cost of a ticket has been waved for those who served.
“After Montana’s historic fire season, we wanted to provide an opportunity for firefighters to attend the game with their families,” UM President Sheila Stearns said on Friday. “We know they spent many days apart over the long fire season. We chose Saturday’s game to share recognition with veterans and emergency responders as well.”
Admission was paid for by local sponsors, Grizzly Athletics and the University of Montana. The game against the North Colorado Bears serves as both Military Appreciation and Griz Football Senior day.
Last year, UM was recognized by the national Military Friendly organization with a Silver award in the Large Public School category for its academic policies and compliance related to veteran services. It also received high marks for its culture and commitment to those who served.
On the fire front, UM also worked through local organizations to distribute football tickets to contractors, city and rural fire departments and agency employees.
Stearns said Saturday’s attendees will include the Missoula smokejumpers, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation fire leadership, and seasonal firefighters, along with those from the U.S. Forest Service, and contractors and representatives from rural fire districts in the Bitterroot, Missoula and Flathead valleys.
Several military and Gold Star families also will attend Saturday’s game.
“All of these people are deeply committed to service and have made many sacrifices, so we are excited to welcome them to Washington-Grizzly Stadium on game day,” said UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam.